Tuesday, September 2, 2008

O2 Germany unblocks Rebtel

Just a fast news break: O2 in Germany is not blocking the phone numbers of Rebtel anymore. Their blog says "Victory! Rebtel is officially back in town and we’re planning on staying for a loooong time without any unexpected interruptions." I just heard the good news from my contacts and already did some Rebtel calls with a German SIM card from O2. Rebtel's CEO Hjalmar Winbladh is very happy that the pressure from thousands of Rebtel users made this breakthrough possible. He had had asked to write emails to the boss of O2 in Germany, Mr. Jaime Smith Basterra (jaime.smith@o2.com) or call the O2 support desk on 0049 179 55 22 2. Hjalmar told me in an email:
"We are very grateful for the overwhelming support we have received from our users. They proved that together we can make a difference. O2 would not have changed their mind without our users mailing, visiting and calling O2's CEO and customer support. Thank you all Rebtel friend! People can now stay in touch their loved ones again and afford to pay for it. We hope this has shown other operators that people do not accept being told who they can call and if they can use VOIP-services or not. We will continue to support our users and offer some of the world's lowest rates and best quality calling."
It cannot be overheard: Rebtel is happy, but they also send a message to incumbent telco operators to never try that again. Actually not only the Swedish company was affected. There are still more callthrough services and chatlines which see their numbers constrained by O2 and E-Plus in Germany. Their numbers are blocked or "limited", which is an especially nasty trick that user handytim explains in the web forum Telefon-Treff.de: "The numbers are not blocked, only limited. In my test I could only establish 1 connection out of 100 trials". While blocking of certain phone numbers is illegal for mobile operators, limiting seems to allowed to save their bandwith. One has to ask what's the difference to a blockade if really one of 100 calls comes through.

The affected companies are listed in a Google Spreadsheet which forum user Vesko keeps up to date: Budgetmobil, DialNow, Calleasy, voipwise.com, nonoh.net, VoipBusterPro, yipl.de, Chat House, Bluerate, Speed-Chat, partyknack.de, 030chat.de and Phonecaster. As you might notice there are several Betamax services among them. If the company wasn't so reluctant to talk to its users, Betamax could make a similar call for help.

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